Psychology Practice Life: A Guide For Thriving Through a RecessionJan 09, 2023
It's easy to feel demoralised reading the news about economic prospects these days, but there are ways to deal with the uncertainty we are facing. Although it can feel safer, staying still or even reducing our growth plans in our psychology practices can be counter productive during a recession. The key to continuing to grow, though, is taking the opportunity to strengthen your practice through the process too.
We were faced with the first shock just as the first pandemic lockdown hit the UK back in March 2020. I ended up running a series of mini-workshops for psychologists in my facebook group, about how we can strengthen our practices through adversity.
The same lessons from those workshops still apply but when we’re facing, potentially, a longer slow down, it's important to also learn lessons from what has helped other businesses, including psychology practices.
Are Psychology Practices Recession Proof?
Looking at reports on recession resistant sectors, healthcare services are said to be among the most robust. There is always a need for what we do as psychologists, and that doesn't go away during a recession. Arguably, the need for psychologists' services increases, whether that's working directly with people to support mental health and well-being, or working through organisations helping them to work more effectively.
However, the profession's resilience doesn't mean that each individual private practice will be resilient to economic shocks. The uncertainty and volatility that goes along with challenging times in the economy can mean adapting how and to whom we deliver services.
What Makes Private Practice Vulnerable to Recession?
- Reliance on one or two main income streams, especially if those income streams focus on the same or similar client bases.
These three issues also tend to compound one another.
Additionally, we need to learn the product design skills of adapting, trial and test new approaches more quickly, more effectively and without spending too much time and money upfront.
To increase our practice's resilience, we need to incorporate multiple incomes streams, which isn't only about adding options for existing customers. Resilience also comes from creating different customer bases.
This prospect may also seem overwhelming, especially if you've not weathered a recession beforehand but here's what I've learned can help you to thrive through a recession when you're in private practice.
Shifting Our Perspectives on Challenging Times
The work of Barbara Frederickson on the Broaden and Build Theory of positive emotions gives us a framework for staying open to growth even during challenging times. Whereas the cognitive impact of working from our 'flight or fight system' is to narrow our thinking and behaviour, Frederickson proposed that there was a route to opening up our cognition and social connections, starting with our experience of positive emotions.
Frederickson's theory highlights four helpful areas for psychologists growing their practices through a recession:
1. Building Positive Emotions.
We all know by heart that experiencing positive emotions is beneficial. However, I also know from experience how we sometimes forget to apply our own expertise to our own practices. Are there ways in which you can build practices/habits into your practice that bring in these positive emotions? Is it possible to use something like a reflection journal, gratitude jar or even a 'good feelings jar' to keep a track of your the good feelings you experience on a regular basis. Journals and jars have the additional benefit of helping you to savour those moments too, so you get more bites of the positive emotions cherry.
2. Broaden Thinking and Behaviour:
It can be tough to contemplate breaking out of the box of how private practice has always been done as we often hold concerns of what other's might think when we do that. However, broadening your thinking and behaviour around your private practice can strengthen it during difficult times.
Open yourself to a new way of thinking about your practice. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you do have to be willing to look at your practice from a different perspective. There may be different clients you could support or different ways of working that leverage your strengths and expertise more effectively and profitably. Perhaps there are ways that technology could help your practice flourish even during a recessionary time period.
Use this time to fine tune and clarify your practice. Even in a recession, you are still practicing psychology. You are helping people, and that is always good. However, it's important to spend some time evaluating the effectiveness of your practice so that you can use this time to fine tune and clarify your practice.
Opening up to new ways of thinking or being in your practice, as well as clarifying your practice, can also be part of increasing your visibility and your marketing. One of the key differentiators of businesses that were well places to thrive after a recession versus those that fell behind was whether they continued to be visible. If you'd like help with building your visibility, reach out to us.
Be strategic in your decision-making. People who thrive through recessions have strategies that help them get through difficult times without losing sight of their goals or forgetting how much they love what they do every day—and those strategies work well during good economic circumstances too! Use different sources of information to inform your strategy and development, both the data from your practice and your gut feelings. Don't ignore one over the other.
3. Build Personal and Social Resources
Enhance your network. Now is the time to make new connections in your community, perhaps going beyond your usual social media connections or local groups. Psychology practices thrive on connection with a diverse range of people, so it's time to start networking outside of our comfort zones.
Some of the best tools you have for moving forward from this moment is your skills as a psychologist. You've already proven that you can build rapport with people in a professional environment, and that's one of your greatest strengths. Now it's time to use those skills to create connection in the community, so that when people need help they know who to turn to—and they will because you're a familiar and safe presence.
You can do this by:
- Networking with other professionals: It might be helpful for you to join a professional association or organisation—or even just sign up for their newsletter. This way, you can network with other professionals who are in similar professions as you are (e.g., therapists). If these people are also in the same city or region as you, consider meeting up for coffee once or twice per month or emailing them about potential projects that could benefit both parties involved. It also gives both individuals an opportunity to develop mutually beneficial relationships that go beyond simple acquaintanceship; plus there's always potential value somewhere down the line!
- Networking with other businesses: Networking with local business owners could lead into collaboration opportunities down the road too—so it never hurts anyone having those connections made early on! Consider asking around through friends/family members who own small businesses themselves about what kinds of work might help their businesses grow faster than expected. Networking outside your industry also gives you the opportunity to practice explaining how you help to people who don't have any implicit understanding of what you do as a psychologist. This can help you clarify your marketing more quickly than some of the best marketers around!
Creating connections with others doesn't just mean creating personal relationships; it also means building an online presence where people can find information about what you do and how they can benefit from it. If you haven't done this yet, now is a perfect time: start blogging about what psychology means for everyday life, share articles on social media, or create an email newsletter (it doesn't have to be fancy).
The more ways there are for others to learn about how psychologists work with clients and our in-depth understanding of human behaviour, the easier it will be for people to feel safe to connect with us when we say we can help them sort through whatever challenges they're facing right now.
By sharing our expertise with other professionals like doctors, managers, and entrepreneurs —which may even include collaborating on projects together—we show ourselves as valuable members of these communities too.
4. Tranform People and Produce 'Upward Spirals'
Focus on growth and not just survival. Our lives are full of stressors, and we can't control everything. Continue to focus on what you can control. If you're unclear how to proceed, reach out to someone who can help you get clarity. If you're feeling isolated and stuck, reach out to the community around you for ideas of how to move forward.
Work from your strengths. Almost everything in the broaden and build 'stages' works more effectively when we are working more from our strengths than our weaknesses.
What are your strengths as a psychologist and as a practice? Can you turn up the volume on some of your strengths so that you get more use from them? Can you build them into your programmes so that you also build a positive feedback loop between how you practice and the growth of your practice. Strengths use also has a positive role in buffeting us against adversity.
What are your weaknesses in your practice? Weaknesses aren't character flaws; they may be areas where you're under skilled or just personal preferences for how you like to work. Which weaknesses are critical to building your practice and can you tailor how you work so that you can focus on your strengths? If not, can you undertake training or development to improve your skills in those critical areas? Can you partner with someone who is strong in the areas where you feel you have a weakness?
A Perspective on Thriving in Private Practice
If you're feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of a recession, build on strengths that have served you well so far. Use these skills to overcome obstacles and thrive during tough times. If there are ways in which your practice has been less than ideal, use this opportunity to fine tune and clarify those elements, so that when things get better again (and they will), you'll be prepared for even greater success.
It's hard to imagine a world where we don't have to worry about things like workload, stress and burnout. But sometimes the best way to deal with these things is to embrace them. When you look at the challenges in your life as problems to be solved, instead of opportunities for growth, they can start to feel overwhelming. And when they feel overwhelming, it's easy to get stuck in a cycle of fear and anxiety.
When we take the perspective that growing our private practices through a recession can also be an experience to be explored, we can bring in more opportunities for continuing to thrive.